Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Best Table


Melissa knows what RPGs are. She sees people playing in the back of her store. When she was a kid her older sister played a lot of Vampire and she never got invited. Now she is giving it her best go but she does not know how to do anything. She has grasped like three basics - pretending to be someone else, how her dice work, and since her party uses minis she has a good grasp of wargame scale. There are many things she does not understand. She keeps getting her d10 and d8 mixed up, same with her d12 and her d20. She keeps forgetting her thief has skills that aren't backstab, or that her wizard has spells, or her barbarian rage. But she approaches everything in the game 100%. She picked out her own mini and painted it. She likes to draw the party. She wants to get to know the monsters. She has a bottomless curiosity about whatever they find in the world. Importantly, she never has a concept of what she cannot do, or, worse, what she should do. She approaches every interaction with the rules as Brainstorming. She has a dozen ideas about how things could work in this specific situation for every general rule she actually knows. She wants to try everything. She gets told No a lot but she keeps being awesome and eventually one of her outside the box approaches saves her life, maybe even saves the day. She will never take this as a positive and will constantly apologize for not knowing the rules or doing math quick enough.

Alphonse used to play a long time ago. He did a lot in middle school and quit after he started getting laid. Reconnected in college but too many Next Great Novelists and byzantine rules systems (if he had time or patience for that he wouldn't have a D in Trig) left him feeling like it's just not his thing. Later on he played some WoW and even lost a lot of money on Warhammer before realizing it wasn't for him. It did rekindle his dormant embers, though, so he sought out a game. "Official" D&D at the store was where he ended up. He is grateful of the opportunity to have even a short amount of time to play. He has bad night sometimes, one 4 rolled after another, but it's the activity that he really enjoys and he gets some great stories out of it. It's all good. He has some disposable income to spare so he always has some extra supplies or minis or oh man MAPS? He brings snacks, occasionally covers pizzas or beer. It's all about being a part of the game, not about making sure his guy comes off the best. He will 100% be the most likely to be working with the DM regarding his backstory or fleshing out some part of the world. He seems always so eager to help because he just wants to be somewhere and be heard. He has a very active social schedule but this is by far the creative high point of his week.

Wakana is a grognard. She played back in the iron man stone age of games and she has played more hours and more kinds of games than anyone at the table. We won't catch up until she's dead. She takes the trappings of old school games very seriously -- base to base, scaled movement and range, proper player mapping, copious note taking, diligent accounting (because her group used to also track partial experience points based on copper and electrum) that she accepts no racist bullshit over -- to the point where you can come up with all the modern flourishes you like, she still will position herself deliberately behind her target before attempting to get Sneak Attack, which she still calls Backstab. Rolls in order. Won't play a class invented after the monk. However, she doesn't judge the people who do. She is a wealth of knowledge but she never interposes that over the DM's direction or the party's plans. It never becomes a Grandpa Simpson scenario, it's just there to be exploited. She is a canny and calculating strategist. She will almost never talk in-character, actually, but she is the most talkative person at the table, always describing what her character does, why, what they're after, where they've been....She is eager to cross talk and happy to explain a rule or concept when asked, so the DM can keep going. But she doesn't leap on new meat in order to teach them the True Path. Nor does she metagame. She's in fact maybe too conscientious about metagaming, and if there's ever an opportunity to benefit herself while breaking character she will, at best, roll for it.

Ernesto is friends with everyone at the table. If they wanted to go to a baseball game or see Tegan and Sara then Ernesto would do that instead. He's down to just play Camel Up or Smash Bros. But he really likes spending time with everyone here and finds he additionally really likes spending time with them while role playing. Always the first to praise a good idea, first to laugh at a joke, first to react to a dangerous situation....Always thinking about the benefit of the group overall. He is living in a movie that is being made just for him by all his best friends. He will bend like a willow reed any way the wind blows. He is up for anything. He also pays fierce attention. He used to talk when it wasn't his turn, which is fine, but loud enough to swamp DM narration. He's now the guy who asks the most questions about each room, the appearance of each NPC....A lot of his characters die and it's a joke but he has a good attitude about it. This way he eventually gets to play one of EVERYTHING. Ernesto joined the group late, and honestly any more players and things would start getting unwieldy, the table cramped...this means that Ernesto is always a lower level than everyone and always has been. That's fine with Ernesto. He still contributes a lot and when he reaches level 9 (Ernesto heard you get to build a castle and he has big plans and sandwich napkin designs) he wants to EARN it.

Brenda has read every DragonLance novel. Every Pern novel. Every uhhhh Wheel of Time novel. She is not fun to watch Game of Thrones with, although she doesn't even like those books very much. She has a normal desk job during the week, leaving her plenty of down time. That means she knows the DM's world as well as he does. She reads (and often writes) every play report. She has read every bit of history, everything on the DM's blog...She has copies of handouts from letters and stuff. She recognizes elven script on sight. She knows about the homelands of every character at the table, and knows what they would know because of it. She'll sometimes cut the DM off if someone asks "So was Krikguch a fishing village?" but her answer, although detailed, brief. If someone has a wiki for the campaign she maintains it, and it may just be Brenda and the DM that ever look at it. She likes to keep a journal or maybe tweet as her character. Puts her hand up when speaking OOC, and says "OOC." Deeply invested in forming a personal connection to many NPCs. Her characters are never in it for the money but always up for a dungeon or adventure because the world is a terrible place and we need to make it safer/more dangerous. Completing a quest, even a dungeon siege, can change the world, and she is ALL about changing the world.

Tater Dawg is the DM. TD has never purchased an adventure and he hasn't bought dice since high school. He doesn't have a huge map collection but does have a large collection of handout maps, all of which are inaccurate in some way. He never asks for homework and he never asks the party to care about something. He is very up front: "I spent all week working on this thing so we could do that, or we'll do that another time and you can just wander the hillside and I'll make it up as we go." He is always two steps ahead of the party, but only just that, and loves the challenge of keeping up the pace. When the party completely surprises him...well, that's the only reason to do this, isn't it? He owns every splatbook and is quick to let you flip through them but he never runs from them at the table. If you allow him his DM-tools sprawl will cover his whole side of the table but everything he needs to run eight sessions fits on two sheets of yellow legal paper. The harder you work and the smarter you are, the more permissive he is as a DM. He also gives out too many magic items, or lets PCs level too fast, or gives them spells or items way too powerful for those characters, because he trusts in two things. First, that the players will be smart enough not to abuse these luxiries. Second, that if they do, that's an important learning experience and it inevitable sets into motion about four interesting things. He figures out ways to have the players write his prep for him. As he has trust in them he demands much trust, and so rolls in secret. Perhaps he is being vicious. Perhaps he is fudging. He will not say either way, and expects you to trust that he has your group of players' best interests at heart as a whole, rather than worrying about the best interest of player characters. He employs technology when it does not get in the way but is quick to dismiss it - as with his own ideas, he is reluctant to marry himself to anything. He is always trying new mechanics, new classes, new tweaks and house rules...Sometimes this fucks things up but he has trust that his players will forgive him. Lastly, Tater Dog does voices. His range is narrower than he thinks it is but he tries hard.

And everyone showered and brushed their teeth before sitting down to play.

I think these are the gods of my next campaign.